A Modest Proposal…On Crafting Winning Proposals

You’ve put in the hours to build a compelling website to showcase your mad writing skills. You’ve worked hard for years building a good cliental and a kick-butt portfolio. You’ve cut your chops studying your craft and honing your writing skills. And you’ve put in the time and energy to make great connections and network.

And now it all pays off. A potential client has requested a proposal.

Naturally you should be excited, but here’s the harsh reality. The proposal is where most ghostwriters and freelancers lose the battle. All that hard work and time spent is all for nothing if you don’t nail the proposal.

Why? Because your proposal is the client’s first opportunity to assess your professionalism and your ability—and most importantly, how you can help him or her. In fact, the proposal might be the single most important thing you can spend your time on.

So, here’s a modest proposal…on crafting winning proposals.

Make it about you

Think of the proposal as a first date. You want to make a good impression. You should take the opportunity to talk up your company and your services. Give an overview of your history, past clients, and strengths. Also, spell out your methodology and process for working with a client. Show the client that you know what you’re talking about and what to expect. That alone will separate you from 95% of all other people sending in a proposal.

Also, make it about them

Just like any first date, you’re going to be in serious trouble if you simply talk about how great you are but show no interest in the other person. Part of what makes for a great proposal is to show you’ve done your homework on your client. There is no reason in today’s world that you should walk into a meeting or draft up a proposal blind. With Google, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and more, you can find out all the things you need to about a potential client and his or her business. And if the client isn’t on the web…maybe the client isn’t worth your time after all.

Crafting your proposal to discuss the personalized challenges your client needs addressed will impress him or her and show that you’re both self-motivated and a professional.

Define deliverables clearly

Nothing is worse than sending a proposal to a client that has a description-less service listed with a big fat price tag. You need to show how you bring value to the table by listing in detail the work you intend to do and by listing out the deliverables the client can expect. For a book project that would be things like a comprehensive outline, a first draft, and a final draft. Don’t assume your client knows what the deliverables will be—or how much work goes into pulling off a successful book project. This is your chance to educate and show you’re the expert. Take it and run.

Give case studies

If applicable, list your recent case studies from other clients you’ve helped successfully. Success begets success. And a client that sees tangible evidence on how you’ve helped others just like him or her will be that much closer to selecting you rather than some other freelancer who’s asking a big price with no reasonable evidence as to how it’s deserved.

Do a flat fee (and don’t apologize)

Finally, don’t charge by the hour. Always do a project fee. One reason for this is because it’s really impossible to accurately guess how long a project will take. It will lead to frustration for either you or your client when the project comes in lower than you expected (and budgeted for) or higher than your client expected (and budgeted for). Also, it’s important to get out of the sell-your-time mindset. As a freelancer, you’re a professional who brings an inherent value to the table—and the value is not your time. It’s your expertise. Don’t apologize for asking what your worth.

By putting together a winning proposal, you’ll be light years ahead of most of your competition, and you’ll significantly increase your chances of brining home that project you’ve worked so hard to have a shot at.

[Photo by marshlight]